Russia-Ukraine War – How It Could Affect Disney and Your Vacation

Disney Parks

On Monday, February 28, seven days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, The Walt Disney Company was the first of several entertainment giants to announce that they would halt all theatrical releases in Russia. This includes Disney Pixar’s upcoming coming-of-age comedy Turning Red which was previously set to premiere in the country on March 10, 2022. Disney’s actions paved the way for several other theatrical distributors to join in solidarity as a part of economic sanctions.

Credit: Disney Pixar

The official statement from the company reads as follows:

Given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis, we are pausing the release of theatrical films in Russia, including the upcoming ‘Turning Red’ from Pixar. We will make future business decisions based on the evolving situation. In the meantime, given the scale of the emerging refugee crisis, we are working with our NGO partners to provide urgent aid and other humanitarian assistance to refugees.”

Read More: Walt Disney Company Shares Statement in Response to the Crisis in Ukraine

Unfortunately, there is a very real chance that this situation will go beyond the cinemas, and The Walt Disney Company–and your Disney Vacation–will be affected even more.

Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney®

Disney Cruise Line CDC

Credit: Disney

On Wednesday, March 2, The Walt Disney Company took things a step further by removing St. Petersburg, Russia–a very popular cruise port of call—from upcoming Disney Cruise Line itineraries. 

Adventures by Disney also offers several European adventures. This includes an 8 Days/7 Nights Poland, Czech Republic, and Austria package. Slightly less expensive, with a price tag closer to $5,000-$6,000 a ticket, this magical tour has visitors.

As it says on its website,

“Become immersed in the sights and sounds of scenic Central Europe. From a visit to the iconic Wawel Castle in Krakow to the streets of the Bohemian village of Český Krumlov near Prague to learning how to waltz in Vienna- your adventures in Poland, Czech Republic, and Austria will bring you a lifetime of magical memories.”

Adventures by Disney

Credit: Disney

Eastern Europe encompasses Belarus, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, and western Russia. Whether Adventures by Disney® will withdraw itineraries close to the conflict remains to be seen. However, it is likely that many Guests will instead opt for a different vacation, all things considered.

Disney Theme Parks and Resorts

Disneyland Paris

Credit: Disney

There is a question and what might be in store for Disney’s theme parks and resorts outside of the United States. For example, Disney’s European Resort, Disneyland Paris, which only recently reopened on June 17, 2021, and just ended its mask mandates.

Though it is homed in Chessy, France, which makes it only a bit over 2,000 kilometers away from war-torn Ukraine, Western Europe is likely to see an influx of immigrants in need of refuge in the near future. On top of that, tourism that has already been hurt by the pandemic globally could see further losses as time and resources are directed to deal with the conflict, and a distaste for international travel to the continent endures.

But Disneyland Paris is not the only Resort Disney might have to worry about. Recent developments involving China might put Shanghai Disney Resort, and neighboring Tokyo Disney Resort, and Hong Kong Disneyland also in line for concern.


Disneyland Shanghai

Credit: Disney

Despite the statement made by Western countries, the Chinese head of banking, Guo Shuqing announced two days later that China wouldn’t follow suit and participate in sanctions imposed by Western nations on Russia, financial or otherwise.

According to Reuters, Mr. Guo said:

“We will not participate in such sanctions, and we will continue to maintain normal economic, trade, and financial exchanges with relevant parties.”

Given that Disney stated that the evolving situation would affect future business decisions, this latest news opens up the possibility for sanctions to be imposed on China as well as Russia. And if Disney truly is going to put its money where its mouth is, this could mean a serious dent in one of Disney’s largest markets. That is if enough social and political support is mounted against China.

Credit: Disney

This is not the first time that Disney has found itself thrown into a China-focused political conversation. In 2020, Disney faced controversy with its relationship with China during the filming of the remake of the 1998 animated classic Mulan. After the film’s delayed release and eventual premiere on Disney+, as the credits rolled, viewers could see parts of the film were shot in the Xinjiang province, a region globally known for human rights abuses, including internment camps operated by the government’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The Walt Disney Company thanked Chinese governmental bodies, including an organization specifically featured on a U.S. Government blacklist of Chinese organizations American companies are not supposed to do business with. This was also after lead actor Liu Yifei, who played the titular heroine, showed public support on social media for the Hong Kong police during the city’s pro-democracy protests in 2019 and 2020.

Credit: Disney’s Mulan

Disney has already conformed to the CCP’s censorship policies for all releases in China. Disney+ omitted an episode of “The Simpsons” that satirized China’s historical suppression of information about the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, and Disney-owned ESPN management came under fire in the past for discouraging staff from publicly discussing the NBA’s strained relationship with China stemming from comments about Hong Kong. This is due to the fact that Disney has looked to China and the country’s 1.4 billion to feed its growth and expansion, as the global influence of Disney in most other countries means it is unclear where it could find any other growth opportunities.

Credit: ESPN

Related: From a Stockholder: 3 Problems The Walt Disney Company Needs to Fix NOW

But, again, it is not just about the movies. Disney has two Resorts in the region: Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disney Resort. Disney is a minority owner in both parks, with the Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong governments handling the majority of cost and control. While The Mouse House’s minority holdings still account for billions of dollars, its lack of control is clear.

Credit: Disney Parks

On Sunday, October 31, 2021, medical staff in hazmat suits conducted mass tests for COVID-19 at Shanghai Disneyland, with over 30,000 visitors being unable to leave after a woman who visited the Park on Saturday tested positive for COVID-19. And as of January 7, 2022, Hong Kong Disneyland has closed for a fourth time due to COVID concerns and has yet to reopen. These alone are very vivid displays of the degree of governmental control in the Parks, and it would be interesting to see what Disney stepping away from China, and those Parks would look like.

Additionally, Adventures by Disney offers a 12 Days/11 Nights “Enchanted China” package which takes Guests through Beijing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Guilin, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. The cost of the trip, headed by official Disney guides and ending with a trip to China’s Disney Parks, is around $10,000 per person. As of March 2, the official Adventures by Disney Website is still accepting inquiries and bookings for trips ranging from June 5, 2022, through January 3, 2023.

Credit: Adventures by Disney

But now, as Disney has spoken out against Russia, will they also risk the monetary loss that is China’s market for political and moral reasons?

Will Disney stand by its sanctions on Russia? Will they stand by their convictions and begin sanctions against China? Or will the potential financial losses from the parks and entertainment divisions eclipse the company’s values? Only time will tell.

About Maggie Koch

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